Did Boris Break Rules In Garden Bridge Bidding?
Friday 29th January 2016
The Garden Bridge could face a legal challenge after LBC has discovered Boris Johnson may have broken rules in the bidding process.
The £175 million Garden Bridge will stretch across the Thames, linking the South Bank to Temple station.
The Mayor of London invited the bridge's designer Thomas Heatherwick to a meeting with executives at Apple where the Garden Bridge was discussed, a week before architects were invited to bid on the project.
LBC's Political Editor Theo Usherwood reports: "When you want to fix your roof, you don't just ring up one builder and say how much. You ring up three or four builders to get a quote, compare the prices and make sure you get the best value for money.
"Boris Johnson should be doing the same at City Hall with the Garden Bridge - which is relying on millions of pounds of tax-payers' money.
"But Boris's opponents in City Hall are questioning whether the bridge can now go ahead given that Mr Heatherwick, who eventually won the bid to design the Garden Bridge, was at a meeting with the Mayor to drum up private sponsorship a week before anyone else was invited to apply."
How do we know?
Mr Johnson went on a £9,000 trip to San Francisco, paid for by the tax-payer, to meet executives at Apple on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of February 2013.
Freedom of Information requests show that Thomas Heatherwick was in the city at the same time and the Mayor's team has now admitted he was at that meeting, where the Garden Bridge was discussed.
But crucially, Transport for London did not publish its invitation for architects to bid to design the bridge - they made no mention that they wanted a garden bridge - until 13th February, a week later.
Theo adds: "The reason the rules exist is to make sure private companies do not rip off the tax-payer and public cash gets spent on new projects.
"The implication of this is that Boris might have to start the whole process again. If that happens, £10million of tax-payer cash already spent on the project will have been wasted. Or it will just be binned?"
A statement from the Mayor of London read: "The Mayor met with Apple in 2013 to discuss a number of investment opportunities in London. Thomas Heatherwick was also in California to meet a separate commitment with Apple.
"Given that he had already expressed interest in creating a Garden Bridge, the Mayor invited him to join the meeting and outline his ideas.
"That meeting had no bearing on the procurement process led by Transport for London for the design of the Garden Bridge, which was open, fair and transparent.
"The Garden Bridge will be a spectacular new addition to London. Work on building the bridge is due to begin this year and it is widely supported by Londoners and businesses on both sides of the river."
Heatherwick Studios told LBC they do not comment on private business meetings.